Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2000   by Rick Cogbill a.k.a. Slim Shambles

He who has the remote rules!

We sat there with bated breath, waiting for the training session to begin. I had my notebook and pen, Beanie had his popcorn, and Basil held a bag of fresh donuts. As usual, Tooner brought nothing.I t...

We sat there with bated breath, waiting for the training session to begin. I had my notebook and pen, Beanie had his popcorn, and Basil held a bag of fresh donuts. As usual, Tooner brought nothing.

I tapped my foot impatiently. “Quigley, can’t you get that VCR working yet? You’ve been at it for half an hour.”

Our counterman was good with customers, but not so hot with electronic devices. He tossed the remote to me in frustration. “Here! You try it.”

As I sat there fruitlessly pushing buttons, I was reminded of a similar situation last February…

“Here!” grumbled Harry Bumble, as he tossed the keys of his 1993 Dodge Caravan in my direction. “I’ve been trying to install that remote starter kit I got for Christmas, but the blasted thing won’t work! See what you can do with it.”

I shuddered with a premonition of what was to come. Aftermarket kits of any sort were often a source of great aggravation, but this situation was made worse by the fact that the customer had already been in there. Now it was up to us to try and finish it.

My worst fears were confirmed as I opened the door to discover lower dash panels removed and tangled wires dangling where they shouldn’t be. All Harry had managed to hook up was the hood switch, and a few power supply wires by the steering column. Opening up the crumpled instructions, I waded into the great unknown.

Four hours later, we were ready for a test run. “Press button one,” I read from the instructions. “That should make the park lights flash and activate the system.”

Beanie pushed for all he was worth, pointing the remote at every part of the vehicle he could think of. “Nothing’s happening, Slim. Are you sure all the wires are hooked up?”

“I’m sure,” I grumbled. “And that includes the four wires that Harry had hooked up backwards.”

Basil looked over my shoulder at the instructions. “Have you gone through the reprogramming procedure?”

I handed the wad of paper to him. “I’ve tried, but nothing responds. The LED flashes on the remote, so the battery is good. But nothing happens with the van.”

“Maybe this remote starter kit is faulty,” suggested Beanie. “Is it too late for Harry to take it back?”

Harry. Harry? Why did the customer’s name bring up flashing red lights? “Of course!” I turned to Basil. “Quick, Basil. Rule number one when diagnosing a job that a customer has already worked on.”

Basil smiled. “Always check first what the customer did.”

“Why?” asked Beanie.

“Because they will often create their own problems,” answered Basil. “Or else they don’t really know what they are looking for, and will miss something important.”

“Exactly,” I concurred, opening the hood. “And Harry installed the hood switch.” I checked the adjustment and found that it was set so low that it never even came in contact with the hood. I showed it to the crew. “Unless this switch opens and closes with the hood, the remote starting system will never arm itself.”

All this came back to me as I sat there in the staff room punching a lifeless VCR remote that Quigley had handed over to me.

Quigley. Quigley? Quigley had hooked up the VCR! I went over to the unit and looked behind it. “Maybe we should plug this in,” I suggested, holding up the power cord.

About The Writer

Rick Cogbill is a freelance writer living in the Okanagan valley of Southern British Columbia. A licensed technician with over 24 years in the automotive repair industry, including ten years as a shop owner, Cogbill creates his comic scenarios with Slim, Basil, Tooner, and The Bean out of actual case histories from his shop. “What you have just read is true,” drawls Slim Shambles. “Only the names have been changed to protect my hide!”

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